Objective: To study perceived occurrence and magnitude of fear and other disturbances of severe hypoglycaemia in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) receiving intensive treatment with active education and psychosocial support.
Patients and methods: Out of a geographic population of 112 patients <19 years of age and their families, with a DM duration >1 year, HbA1c mean+/-SD 6.7+/-0.9 (method 1.15% below DCCT level), 74 responded to a questionnaire. Visual analogue scales, 5-graded Likert scales and open questions were used.
Results: Global quality of life was high, but lower among patients with severe hypoglycaemia within the last year (p = 0.0114). Worse perceived health was correlated to higher HbA1c year mean (r = 0.32, p = 0.0227). Patients and parents regard severe hypoglycaemia more as a problem (p <0.0001) and the risk of it more disturbing than mild hypoglycaemia (p <0.0001), insulin injections (p <0.0001) or blood glucose determinations (p <0.0001). The disturbance is higher during exercise, disco/party and in travel situations. Severe hypoglycaemia with unconsciousness causes more fear than severe hypoglycaemia needing assistance but without unconsciousness (p = 0.0001) or the potential late complications of DM (p = 0.0014). Severe hypoglycaemia needing assistance but without unconsciousness causes more fear than mild hypoglycaemia (p = 0.0001) and diabetic ketoacidosis (p <0.0001) but less than the potential late complications of DM (p = 0.0034).
Conclusions: Severe hypoglycaemia frequently causes fear and various disturbances in spite of active education and psychosocial support. There is a potential for increased quality of life from interventions targeted at the prevention of severe hypoglycaemia. Further research and improved strategies for the prevention of severe hypoglycaemia are needed.